DUREPOS DAY IN FREDERICTON
By Bill Hunt, Daily Gleaner, hunt.bill@daily,gleaner.com, September 25, 2012
It was Tuesday on most calendars yesterday.
In Fredericton, it was Dave Durepos Day.
Mayor Brad Woodside read a proclamation from the steps of City Hall on Tuesday officially declaring the day in honour of the five-time Paralympic basketball player and three-time Paralympic gold medallist.
Durepos, 44, was wearing his latest — and last — Paralympic gold, a medal he picked up in London, England, a couple of weeks ago as he and his mates on the Canadian team capped an unbeaten Paralympics with a 64-58 victory over Australia in the gold-medal match.
“I just love bringing stuff like this back home,” he said, as he fingered the gold medal dangling from around his neck.
Durepos became the first New Brunswicker to earn a gold medal in the Olympics or Paralympics when he captained the Canadian team to Paralympic gold in 2000 in Sydney, Australia.
The one he earned in London on Sept. 8 was his third, to go with one silver. “No better way to finish than on top with the gold medal,” said Durepos, who said Frederictonians “were just as much a part of this gold medal as everyone on the team, because you guys have supported me my entire career.”
It’s a career that is coming to a close, at least on the Paralympic stage. “I’m old, man,” he said, explaining his decision to pack it in. “It’s a bittersweet feeling. It means not as much travel with my extended family, which is my basketball crew. But an athlete always knows when it’s time to retire. For me, it’s just time. To go out on top ... what a way to go out.”
Durepos wondered if he could get away without putting money in the parking meter on his day. “You’ve done a tremendous amount at the provincial level, at the local level and encouraging and being a mentor to so many people,” said Woodside. “So giving you a Day and a couple of parking tickets is the least we can do,” he said, chuckling.Woodside was glad to proclaim the day, “to get together to welcome home a hero.”
“Dave Durepos is an exceptional individual who has gone above and beyond for the betterment of himself, his team and his sport,” said Woodside. “He is an inspiration to us both on and off the court.”
“It’s a great honour to be able to come home to this,” said the New Maryland native. “Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, has always been a great supporter of wheelchair basketball.”
It dawned on Durepos that his Paralympic career would end up tinged in gold about three minutes into the fourth quarter of the gold-medal game against the Aussies, the team that dethroned Canada in the 2008 games in Beijing.
“We were just pulling away,” he said. “They seemed to try to do everything and bring everything at us, and it wasn’t working. At that point in time, I got the guys on the bench (together) and there were a bunch of cameras. And I said, ‘When that buzzer goes off, make sure you throw your warmup (jacket) up in the air and we get a good ‘capture the moment.’ ”
There have been many such moments for Durepos over his 18-year career with Team Canada. The former team captain — they won gold on his watch in 2000 — has been called the best three-point shooter in the world in wheelchair basketball. He believes he still is. “That’s my specialty, that’s what I do,” he said.
He demonstrated that one more time in London, ringing up a game-high 18 points in a little more than 16 minutes in a 68-42 win over Colombia in a preliminary game and hitting on four of five three-pointers.
“When the coach came to me, I was there, and I was ready, and it felt fabulous,” he said.
But like everyone else in Paralympic basketball circles, he marvelled at the effort turned in by Canadian teammate Patrick Anderson of Fergus, Ont., who routinely turned in triple-doubles in leading Canada to gold.
“I’m telling you, I’m glad he’s Canadian,” said Durepos, grinning. “Without him, I don’t think we would have been able to win. Not only is he a scoring machine, but he had a triple-double pretty much every single game. He knew how to use his teammates and we knew how to use him.”
Durepos said he “might play one or two more years” for Team Canada in international competition, but he and his wife Sarah, a former Canadian Paralympic athlete in her own right, are turning more to coaching. They’ll be the coaches for New Brunswick at the 2015 Canada Games.